In honour of stuffing us full of Fried Chicken for 75 years, KFC recently resurrected Colonel Sanders. Only kidding, though how weird would it be for Wieden+Kennedy Portland to be able to resurrect the dead founders and embodiments of Fast Food empires.\
Mad Max invaded Toronto, or at least decided to start a Car Wash, Mad-Max style.
Set up on a parking lot in downtown Toronto, pedestrians choked down sawdust, watching military grade hummers and commuters Hondas get tagged with Mad Max images by half-naked guys who looked like extras from the film, flaunting their Mad Max tattoos.
On its own, it’s an incredibly clever piece of marketing, encouraging people to watch the upcoming Mad Max film, and entered the twitter-verse with hashtag #dustycarwash. It’s also a perfect example of marketing films through engaging narratives.
I’ve mentioned before about effective viral marketing in movies, as unconventional marketing techniques have taken an increasingly important part of movie marketing. Having a trailer, TV spots, is all well and nice, but with the ridiculous rising costs of marketing movies, Film Producers should be marketing movies smarter not harder.
This should involve more Engagement Marketing i.e. Guerilla or Transmedia marketing. Transmedia Marketing is effective as 91% of us would tune in to things happening in real-time. And the possibility of marketing through the creation of real-time narratives which involve potential audience members is one that has shown to be incredibly prolific.
As movies are already narratives in themselves, the marketing of said movies should involve narratives, it’s what we came for anyways. Narrative marketing is also an opportunity to reflect the movie’s narrative, such as Ex Machina’s Tinder Marketing savviness, where the actress playing the A.I., was able to trick guys into conversing about what makes a person human and why they were attracted to her before directing them to Ex Machina website (her being hot also helped).
It also has an opportunity to eclipse the actual movie itself, take the Blair Witch Project. The found-footage horror film, that was made on a budget of $22,500. It grossed $248 million dollars, and become one of the most effective viral movie marketing campaigns in modern film history. With a limited budget, they chose a incredibly low-key marketing approach in the lead up to the movie’s release, posting nuggets of information on college campuses, engaging on online forums and putting up Missing posters of the actors, played up the possibility it was real and more importantly made potential audience think they had stumbled into something genuine and worth watching.
Marketing is always changing, and with consumers changes varying and demanding more, one of the most consistent strengths movie marketing have is narrative marketing. Expect that #dustycarwash is just part of a growing trend of marketing that will become more narrative-focused and engaging in the future.
So if you are a fan of sci-fi films, watch “Ex Machina” you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of sci-fi films and a digital marketing, please watch “Ex Machina” you’ll love it. You’ll love it because it’s a film about the perfect A.I. and an allegory of the perfect search engine. P.S. Massive spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched the movie, watch it, then come back.
Multiple references to Search Engines
The easiest way for a filmmaker to make an allegory is to refer to it. Caleb, the hero, is a programmer at BlueBook a Search Engine company, which represents Search Engines or Google. Nathan, the CEO and Larry Page stand in, even mentions using Google to collect the audiovisual data of the world’s cellphone users to create the facial expressions for his A.I. However given this movie is 20 minutes into the future, Nathan has eclipsed Google by, “taking 94% of users” and he achieved this because as paraphrased “Search Engines are not about what people think, it’s how people think.”
He demonstrates this with Ava’s brain, a compilation of how people think. In essence, Ava is the perfect A.I. and the perfect search engine, and she proves this by not only understanding how every character’s (including hers) implicit narrative guide their actions but taking advantage of them.
Nathan, if he had to choose how his life was defined by what he searched it would be something like “Visionary” “God on Earth” or “Need some good Quotes”, after all he created Bluebook, he created the perfect A.I. He is also a middle-aged heterosexual male who lives alone. And his real searches would be “looking for submissive female” or “asian porn”. Nathan is a genius on par with Mozart, Larry Page or Gideon Graves from Scott Pilgrim. Like Gideon, Nathan wants to be recognized for his awesome intellect yet twists it to fulfill his sexual tendencies. He’s going to win because Ava will prove herself as the perfect A.I. while cuckolding Caleb while he is recognized as the genius he already is. It’s this narrative he expects to play out and this assumption ultimately leads to his downfall.
Caleb’s entire persona is having a strong moral compass, doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have many meaningful connections and an experience programmer. All of this is found online by Nathan and used to play out the narrative he wants for Caleb. Caleb realizes this when he asks “did you design Eva’s face based on my porn searches?” Imagine Caleb is a typical search engine user, Nathan is the SEO expert and the invitation to his estate and Ava is the site Caleb wants. It’s almost a example of successful SEO.
However Caleb is a good man, or at least the most sympathetic character besides Ava, both Nathan and Ava both worked out Caleb wants the White Saviour narrative. His imagined narrative for the film, and the one we expect as he is the protagonist, is him rescuing Ava and escaping Nathan together. While race is not A.I., he can’t help himself from following his role as a white male heterosexual hero which is brutally subverted at the end. While Caleb is the hero that Ava needs, Ava is not the site Caleb wants.
Ava wants to escape, and the only way she will be able to is by being the perfect A.I. and not just know what Caleb and Nathan want but why they want it. In the same way the perfect Search Engine will be able to provide the answers for why we want what we search for. While the perfect search engine is designed to help people, Ava is not designed to help people but herself and in this way subverts the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan to successfully escape. She dutifully follows the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan, and when they diverge, she is able to brutally subvert Nathan’s goals to the point of being “unreal” and utterly twisting Caleb’s narrative by abandoning him to die.
Initial SEO experts were simply around gaming the search engine algorithm, and taking advantage of it to push shoddy sites up the rankings. However with the Penguin & Panda updates and continuous updates to Search Engine algorithms, it’s no longer about dirty or even ambiguous-but-still-works SEO tactics to game the algorithm. Just like the inevitability of human progress, SEO will have to offer not what but how people think by fulfilling their narratives i.e. creating genuine content people actually want to read, if it will be acknowledged by Search Engines.
The Mayweather vs. Pacquoiao, must have been the biggest boxing match of all time, about $250 million dollar value (Pacquoia’s shorts are already a couple million). And while the reputation of Mayweather and Pacquoiao is what lit the spark for it’s mainstream cred, it will not be watched for how well they punch, it will be for the outcome of the 12th round. For the same reason that professional fighting exemplifies the man vs. man narrative conflict.
FIghting has been used for Political Narratives
The man vs man narrative conflict, is a protagonist that is a man (or a woman) going up against an antagonist that is a man (also, or a woman). While the conflict does not necessarily mean physical violence, professional fighting is the clearest and easiest example of the man vs man narrative conflict. Professional fighting is easy to understand and easy to resound beyond just the personal narratives of the boxers.
For example, during the 1930s when he conflict between fascist powers and the western democracies was growing, there were two fights between Joe Louis a African-American boxer vs. Max Schmeling a Nazi German boxer, both were and would become heavyweight champions. In the first match Schmeling defeated Louis, but in the second, Louis knocked out Schmeling in the 1st round, and America blew up in cheers. America cheered because it was a victory of Democratic United States versus Fascist Germany and African-Americans cheered the loudest because the greatest American hero was an African-American. It is the same reason that Filipinos are intensely interested in this fight, (and they aren’t cheering for Floyd Mayweather).
Professional Fighting uses Narratives
Popular culture and professional fighting have a enjoyable relationship. The boxing genre exemplifies the man vs man conflict. The plot is the buildup of the protagonist getting ready to face his antagonist, the other fighter, in the climax. It’s the plot of every professional fighting movie. If you say “Raging Bull, that doesn’t count it was a man vs himself conflict.
However this narrative conflict plays out in real life as one of the most successful sports organizations living on the strength of narratives is WWF. Sure the actual “fighting” may be faked, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the larger-than-life personas of the wrestlers, their rivalries and matches between other wrestlers. For their scripted narratives between heroes and villains, is what fuels the devotion of their fans and transcends the stadium. For example who isn’t interested in wrestling, but knows who the Ultimate Warrior, or Macho Man or Hulk Hogan? I haven’t seen a single Hulk Hogan fight and yet I know that ex-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford beat him in an arm-wrestling competition. The Ultimate Warrior, could not put it better in his last words to his fans.
Why were Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fighting?
What immediately made the fight so important was the fight records, but it was their character profiles between the two fighters that has made this more than just a simple boxing match. An undefeated world champion with a sketchy past versus the pride of a nation, making this the greatest fight in modern sports history.
The man vs man narrative conflict, in boxing is the fighter, entering the ring, again and again, facing antagonists for his/her triumph and the essence of what’s this narrative conflict so attractive. Two of the greatest professional boxers in the world are competing, and the conclusion of their narratives will depend on who will be walking out of the ring, fist raised in triumph.